We live in a world where cameras in shopfront windows can guess your gender. Advertisers can guess what you like based on your internet history. The geotagged data on your Instagram photos can be used to find out where you live. The future is now, and it feels all too close to becoming a real-life dystopia. More often than not, we are unaware that this is even going on.
The question then, is: how do we hold an intelligent conversation about something that we can’t see? This is the problem that the ArtScience Museum’s latest exhibition, Big Bang Data, attempts to tackle.
Big Bang Data exposes the hidden world behind data, with an emphasis on showing the ‘hidden materiality’ behind misleading metaphors like ‘cloud computing’. In addition, the exhibit covers the exhilarating, exciting, and sometimes terrifying applications of this data.
Tracing the evolution of data throughout history, the exhibitions delve into pressing themes but is holistic in its outlook. While the sinister side of data is exposed, the exhibit also sows hope for the possibilities for big data.
Many of us have inaccurate mental models about technology, says José Luis de Vicente, one of the curators of Big Bang Data. He points out that many of us still believe that our data is literally stored in a cloud, something light and intangible. In reality, data is stored in servers, transmitted through fibre optic cables, and requires massive amounts of energy to store safely.
We don’t have the appropriate language to begin the data conversation, because we cannot imagine what data looks like, how it affects our lives and how ubiquitous it is, says Executive Director of the ArtScience museum, Honor Harger.
Be prepared for arresting visuals and thought-provoking exhibits which leave you feeling vulnerable and awestruck, like “Black Shoals: Dark Matter”, which uses real-time information from stock markets around the world to create bursts of light in a galactic atmosphere.
Alternatively, find yourself back on Earth and wake up to the messiness of our digital footprints, in the charming work “24 Hours in Photos” by Eric Kessels, which prints 24 hours’ worth of pictures from image sharing site Flickr, resulting in a gargantuan mass of photographs.
We all live in an age of information, yet many of us remain woefully uninformed. The story of data is one that is ever unfolding, and this exhibition invites you to make your own splash in the digital era. A Big Bang, if you will.
Big Bang Data is now open till 16 October, 2016. For more information on Big Bang Data, visit www.marinabaysands.com/museum/big-bang-data.html
Gallery photos provided by ArtScience Museum